Can of Worms?

In the Ukraine-Russia stand-off, the word “fascist” is increasingly used to describe the opposing force. Russians are calling the Kiev forces “fascists”(and anti-Semites). While some in Eastern Ukraine have characterized the Russian “tourists” infiltrating their cities as “fascists.” It is a derogatory word invoking the history of Hitler’s invasion of Eastern Europe as well as the Soviet Union’s control of Eastern Europe down to 1990-91. The word may carry emotional clout in the struggle that’s now going on, but does it throw any light on the character of those forces.

Philosophers, historians, linguists, newspaper readers, liberals, fascists, and communists, what do you say?

Here is Wiki’s summary (which it declares in need of further work):

Fascism is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism that came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. Influenced by national syndicalism, the first fascist movements emerged in Italy around World War I, combining more typically right-wing positions with elements of left-wing politics, in opposition to communism, socialism, liberal democracy and traditional conservatism. Although fascism is usually placed on the far right on the traditional left–right spectrum, fascists themselves and some commentators have argued that the description is inadequate.

Fascists sought to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the national community and were characterized by having a vanguard party that initiated a revolutionary political movement aiming to reorganize the nation along principles according to fascist ideology. Fascist movements shared certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultranationalism and militarism. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation and asserts that stronger nations have the right to expand their territory by displacing weaker nations....

Following World War II, few parties have openly described themselves as fascist, and the term is usually used pejoratively by political opponents. The terms neo-fascist or post-fascist are sometimes applied more formally to describe parties of the far right

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.

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